Jan 31, 2019
As we headed out of NO, a man pulled up alongside us at a stoplight and motioned. We rolled down the window and he said, “I know two good looking white women like you wouldn’t be worrying about getting any trouble ‘bout it, but your brake light is out on the right side. If it was me I’d be worrying, cause they’d be coming after me!” He was a sweet, funny fellow, laughing as he talked.
We drove long stretches of LA. St Charles came up on 10 west as we listened to Ray Charles sing “Tell your mama, tell your pa, I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas.”
News flash: Every senate republican backs a rebuke of Trump’s troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. We didn’t brake when we saw a police car and resolved to replace the light when we got to Beaumont.
In Texas 3:01
Speed limit 75 (MO)
February 1, 2019
In the morning in Beaumont Texas, we set up our mats in between the beds and did our yoga practices, then downstairs we ate some grits in the “complimentary breakfast.” After loading the car, we stopped at a gas station to ask where we could get a brake light. We were directed around the corner to a truck repair. The young man kindly took apart the inside entry for the light and showed me how to install it. He sent us to an auto supply. We left Beaumont without worrying any longer about the police stopping us and confiscating my old Honda with all our kitchenware and books. (BH)
Foggy then thin sun. over Trinity River, then overcast & fog again. Darker skies. We chat about our past and places we’ve lived. A host of trucks on the highway and now pastures of Texas long horns. (MO)
I don’t remember much about the four hours of driving along I-10 to 71. Pretty flat, one big frightening power plant, then a little strip of curvy roads and we came into Austin. (BH)
When we arrived in Austin we drove to the University of Texas at Austin, where our hosts for the night taught. The campus was vast and we drove, confused about where we were supposed to meet Johnny, Barbara’s friend. We called him on the cell and after driving in what seemed familiar circles we finally saw him gesturing to us. We had some time before Rebecca, our other host, would be ready so Johnny gave us a tour of part of the enormous campus. 50 thousand students go to UT at Austin. We strolled uphill to the famous turtle pond and took some quick pics of the many basking turtles. Then walked by an amazing sculpture of stainless steel and aluminum replicas of canoes intertwined by Nancy Rubins, titled Monochrome for Austin. I snapped photos from all it’s jutting angles. (MO)
In Austin we stayed at Johnny and Rebecca Hartigan’s house for two nights. I’ve known Johnny since he was about nine years old. He is family to me. His mother was (and still is) a dear friend and when Johnnie was a child, he traveled to carnivals and fairs with my husband, Allen; they had a special bond with each other.
Rebecca and Johnnie kindly offered us shelter, food, laundry and great conversation. We stayed with them for two nights. They are music lovers–Johnny plays the accordian, dobro and concertina, and Becca plays the mandolin. See below for a wall in their living room. Johnny is an anthropologist; in his last book is Care of the Species, he uses ethnographic ideas to study botanical gardens and knowledge. He is now working on an ethnography of wild horses in Galicia, Spain. For more info on his work, see–
https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/anthropology/faculty/hartigan Rebecca also works for the UT, educating and managing a large group of high school teachers who then teach their students college level statistics.
That night, we had dinner together with their daughter, Zia and her friend, at a vegan restaurant, called Beer Plant, thereby making all of us happy, those who drink beer and those who don’t (me). When Zia arrived, I was surprised at how much she still looked like the little girl who spent the night with me in 2005 in Tesuque, New Mexico; she’s a beautiful, vibrant young woman studying civil engineering. It wasn’t long ago when women did not major in Engineering. Hurray for Zia. The next day we had lunch at the Sour Duck, another crazy beautiful delicious place. And the next night at the Spider House. (BH)
February 2, 2019
In the morning the weather was still misty and damp. Austin is close enough to the gulf to share humidity with desert plant life. I went on a hike with Johnny, heading down a path behind his house through a wooded area, following a dry creek to a flood plain and finally ending at the public library (possible 3 miles). (BH)
Thanks to Becky Garcia at Malvern Books. She did a great job of organizing their space for our reading and also promoting the reading. Fernando set up a table with our books and Rebekah introduced the three of us. There was a big attentive crowd. We read with Ashley Smith-Keyfitz, a young, exciting Austin poet. Here’s a link to her reading one of her poems–
Michael Anania, longtime friend, Poet, essayist, and fiction writer, who I hadn’t seen since I had reddish hair and he had black, came to our reading at Malvern Books. Fabulous to see him again after so long a time! We had fun catching up a bit and in his usual energetic fashion he turned me onto one of the books on display: Duets by Edward Byrne, a little book that tests the boundaries of translation. I’ll say no more, but you must check it out as Michael’s excitement about it is not to be questioned.
After the reading, we went out with Ashley Smith-Keyfitz and Ben Keyfitz. We ordered vegan sandwiches from a food truck called To Dine outside The Spider House; apparently there are hundreds of food trucks in Austin. We sat outside in the misty weather eating our burgers and chatting about poetry, Austin, New York, families and . . .
February 3, 2019
On the road to our motel in Sweetwater Texas, we talked about many things. As we passed by miles of grazing and farmland, one of the more interesting conversations was about Maureen’s potato farm. She owns some property in Minnesota, the farm where she grew up. The house is ramshackle now, maybe collapsed, but she has this idea that she will put up some temporary structure, like a little trailer or a yurt or something like that and she’ll go out there for a few months of the year and raise potatoes to donate mostly to an organization that for example supports the homeless, and raising just enough to pay her electricity for the year. It will be called the Bud Phalen Potato Project, after her uncle who farmed there. I see her there on a flat country landscape digging and planting potatoes and at night, laying on the hood of her car, looking up at the stars and writing poetry. (BH)
Another interesting thing, as we neared Sweetwater, TX, the landscape became an enormous wind farm. Literally hundreds of wind turbines, their elegant slender bodies, creamy white and stunning, engulfed the hilly view. They seemed to go on forever and we noted that tho the development of wind power is a boon to the environment, the problem of their wrecking havoc on migrating birds and water fowl is a grave one. We chatted on noting that this was an issue that was being investigated. I thought I’d read somewhere that some kind of sonar device was being worked on that could be installed in the turbines and would signal our feathered friends to avoid that area. But we agreed it was still a complicated issue. Improving the environment, yet wounding the creatures in the environment. (MO)